Kaye LaFond

Science and Conservation Reporter

Kaye covers science, the environment, and stories that involve crunching a lot of numbers. She lives in Traverse City with her three cats. She enjoys anything outdoors but is partial to swimming in the Great Lakes.

Support for conservation journalism at Interlochen Public Radio comes from The Brookby Foundation. 

Great Lakes Fishery Commission

Dams hurt native fish by blocking their access to rivers — but removing dams to let the fish through would open the way for invasive species.

A first-of-its-kind barrier designed to deal with this problem by sorting fish will be tested on the Boardman River in downtown Traverse City. If it’s successful, it could be a model for rivers all over the world.

What to do with dams

A long, thing metal pipe sits on a concrete floor.
Enbridge Energy

Enbridge Energy has retrieved a 45-foot steel rod it left in the Straits of Mackinac in September. Strong currents moved the rod 150 feet during its time underwater.

The company dropped the rod while sampling bedrock in preparation for building a tunnel under the straits.

The tunnel would replace Enbridge’s 66-year-old oil and gas pipelines that currently sit on the lake bottom.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The spending package signed Friday by President Donald Trump includes $75.3 million to begin construction of a new Soo Lock.

People on kayaks work together to hold up a sign that says "SHUT DOWN LINE 5".
Kaye LaFond / Interlochen Public Radio

Interlochen Public Radio has obtained emails between a private security contractor working for Enbridge Energy and several law enforcement agencies near the Straits of Mackinac.

The emails show the contractor kept tabs on anti-Line 5 activists (known as water protectors) in the Straits of Mackinac this summer. He shared information about their camp, protests and social media posts with local law enforcement.

A man points at a stove.
Kaye LaFond / Interlochen Public Radio

Tribal nations, Michigan’s governor and environmental groups are all calling for a shutdown of Line 5: the pipeline that carries oil underneath the Straits of Mackinac.

They say the pipeline, which is 60-plus years old, poses too great a risk of rupturing.

The pipeline doesn’t just carry oil — its liquid mix includes propane that is delivered to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. So, what would happen to U.P. households using propane if Line 5 shut down?


A woman in a red top sits at a round table and fills out a piece of paper.
Kaye LaFond / Interlochen Public Radio

A new independent commission will re-draw Michigan’s political districts in 2020, and the state wants as many people as possible to apply to be on it.

The commission will consist of 13 randomly chosen voters — four democrats, four republicans and four independents.

It was created by a ballot initiative in 2018 to take redistricting out of the hands of legislators. The U.S. District Court ruled earlier this year that Michigan's political districts are unconstitutionally gerrymandered.

A map of the United States with multicolored dots showing precipitation amounts.
CoCoRaHS / Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network

When driving even a short distance through northern Michigan in the winter, the weather can feel contradictory. Keith Berger, the Observing Programs Leader at the National Weather Service in Gaylord, agrees. 

An aerial photo of a river with a bridge and an area of vegetation that looks like it's returning after being removed.
Gary Langley / Interlochen Public Radio

Three dams were removed from the Boardman River in Grand Traverse county in the last seven years. It was the largest ever dam removal project in the State of Michigan, and one of its main goals was to return the river to a more natural and healthy state. Scientists say fish, floodplains and aquatic insects are doing well since the dams came out.


A group of people stand in a brightly-lit concrete tunnel where colorful artwork covers the walls.
Kaye LaFond / Interlochen Public Radio

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Monday for new artwork installed in the Clinch Park tunnel in downtown Traverse City. The art honors the Anishinaabek, people indigenous to the region — specifically, the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians.

“Mazinaadin,” the name of the new exhibition, translates to “make an image” in Anishinaabemowin. The project is a collaboration between the Traverse City Arts Council and the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians.

Tribal chairman Sam McClellan said walking through Clinch Park tunnel was “awesome.”

A dead water bird, speckled black and white, lies on beach grass.
National Park Service

Dozens of dead loons washed up at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore last week. On Friday afternoon, the official carcass count was 32.

A woman stands on a dock with foggy water and the sun low in the sky.
Kaye LaFond / Interlochen Public Radio

You’ve probably heard about harmful blue-green algae on Lake Erie (it's actually not algae at all - it's cyanobacteria). A large bloom of it famously shut down the City of Toledo’s water supply in 2014. But, did you know that cyanobacteria also blooms on Michigan’s inland lakes every year?


A rocky river flows through a forest.
Tim Kiser/Wikimedia Commons

A tribe in Northern Wisconsin still wants Line 5 off their land, despite a $24 million offer from Enbridge.

The Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa sued Enbridge Energy earlier this year, asking them to immediately shut down the portion of the Line 5 oil pipeline that runs through their reservation.

An emaciated deer stands near a fence.
Terry Kreeger / Wyoming Game and Fish Department/CWD Alliance

To help combat chronic wasting disease, Michigan is banning deer baiting and feeding across big parts of the state. It’s highly unpopular with some hunters and lawmakers.

But, banning bait will only slow CWD from spreading to new areas, and more aggressive approaches that might actually stop it could be just as unpopular.


Water levels on the Great Lakes normally decline in the fall months, but that doesn't mean relief from higher-than-average water levels.

Kevin Donner

Sturgeon are a prehistoric fish that can live up to 100 years old, but overfishing and habitat destruction has decimated their population across the state.

Baby sturgeon were released last weekend as part of a joint effort between the state, tribes and conservation groups to restore populations of this ancient fish. 

A baby sturgeon release ceremony was held August 24 by the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians at the village Wolverine.

A large building with the words "Cheboygan County building" on the front.
Kaye LaFond / Interlochen Public Radio

Cheboygan County Commissioners passed a resolution to support Enbridge’s construction of a tunnel underneath the Straits of Mackinac Tuesday morning. 

Noelle Riley

A resolution supporting Enbridge Energy’s proposed tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac will appear before the Grand Traverse County Commissioners Wednesday morning, and it’s almost identical to what three Upper Peninsula counties already passed.

A map of the northwestern Lower Peninsula of Michigan with a large area highlighted.
Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians

A federal judge has ruled against the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians in a lawsuit to affirm its reservation boundaries.

A hand is holding a tiny fish.
Kaye LaFond / Interlochen Public Radio

A new nonprofit is training citizen scientists to collect data on fish in the Great Lakes, which could be a game changer for research in the region and help prevent the establishment of invasive species.


A map showing combined sewer overflows in Michigan
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

From January 2018 through May 2019, roughly 6.7 billion gallons of diluted or partially treated sewage called combined sewer overflows (CSOs) spilled into Michigan waters, according to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy.

CSOs are the result of sewer systems that drain both stormwater runoff and human and industrial waste. Eighty municipalities in Michigan have such systems, known as combined sewer systems.

From January 2018 through May 2019, 6.7 billion gallons of diluted or partially treated sewage, called combined sewer overflows (CSOs) spilled into Michigan waters.

CSOs are the result of sewer systems that drain both stormwater runoff AND human and industrial waste. Eighty municipalities in Michigan have such systems, known as combined sewer systems.

Looking underneath a bridge at sunrise, a group of boats in the water surround several swimmers attached to orange buoys.
Kaye LaFond / Interlochen Public Radio

More than 300 people braved the Straits of Mackinac Sunday for the 13th annual Mighty Mac Swim.

Photo shows the inside of a culvert. It's square with concrete walls and a very shallow stream of water is running through it.
Kaye LaFond / Interlochen Public Radio

Climate change is likely to bring more extreme rainfall and flooding to Michigan, so flood risk in the next 100 years will probably look very different than in the past.

Much of Michigan’s infrastructure — like culverts, bridges and storm drains — is still being designed and built based on the floods of the past.


Algae grows on submerged pipelines on a lake bottom.
University of Michigan

Indigenous governments and activists in the Great Lakes have been leaders in the movement to shut down the twin oil pipelines that run under the Mackinac Straits.

Now, one of the most visible people in that movement has left his tribal government job and set up his own consulting firm. One of his clients? The pipelines’ owner, Enbridge Energy.

This sudden change has upset indigenous communities in the region, and some worry it’s a “divide-and-conquer” tactic.

A flooded beach near Lake Michigan.
Kaye LaFond / Interlochen Public Radio

The last major outbreak of avian botulism on Lake Michigan was in 2016, when hundreds of dead birds washed up on shore. The bacterial disease has affected waterfowl like loons and mergansers in the Great Lakes for decades, but high water levels on the lakes are good news for the birds for now.

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